Nicholas Spice reviews a retrospective exhibition of works by painter Agnes Martin, on view at Tate Modern through October 11, 2015.
Spice writes: "It is often remarked about our engagement with Martin’s paintings that we are uncertain, when standing in front of them, where they reside. There are said to be three basic viewing positions: up close, from a distance and halfway between. At a distance – so this account goes – the paintings hide from us, close like flowers at the end of the day, retreat into impassivity, their details no longer to be seen. Up close, the materiality of paint, graphite and canvas asserts itself: lines that looked straight turn out to be subtly irregular, the spacings of an intricate grid are discovered to be subject to slight deviations, uniform colour fields to reveal delicate fluctuations in density – thinning here, pooling there. In the intermediate position, meanwhile, everything starts to swim, shimmer and pulse. In fact, things are a little less neat than this. Some of the paintings actually become more emphatic and distinct as one moves away from them; others so dazzle at close range that focusing on the detail tires the eyes; a few remain visually stable wherever one happens to be standing. But generally, in their shifting, mercurial nature, their having no steady state, the paintings can seem to elude us. What they exactly are, we cannot grasp. A consequence of their indeterminacy is that the paintings ask that we look, look and keep looking. They beckon us into an attitude of attention, a willingness to take time."
Charley Peters reviews the Agnes Martin retrospective at Tate Modern, on view through October 11, 2015.
Peters notes that "Despite any of the vulnerability implied by the narratives surrounding her paintings, [the exhibition] is a vast, comprehensive survey of [Martin's] robust and relentless vision, best viewed by spending time with her paintings and not by dwelling for too long on the explanations of why they may have been made... The power of Martin’s paintings is in their quiet declaration of their own existence; they are barely visible but resolutely present."
Janet McKenzie reviews a retrospective exhibition of works by painter Agnes Martin, on view at Tate Modern through October 11, 2015.
McKenzie notes that "[Martin's] works are composed of the simplest formal elements – ruled pencil lines and a limited number of forms, including grids, stripes and, occasionally, circles, triangles and squares, painted in a reduced palette on square canvases. The austere painting anticipated and helped to define minimalism... In 1989, Martin recalled: “When I first made a grid, I happened to be thinking of the innocence of trees and then this grid came into my mind and I thought it represented innocence, and I still do, and so I painted it and then I was satisfied. I thought, ‘This is my vision.’”
Oliva Laing profiles painter Agnes Martin. An exhibition of Martin's work will be on view at Tate Modern from June 3 – October 11, 2015.
Laing begins "Art must derive from inspiration, Agnes Martin said, and yet for decades she painted what seems at first glance to be the same thing over and over again, the same core structure subject to infinitely subtle variations. A grid: a set of horizontal and vertical lines drawn meticulously with a ruler and pencil on canvases six feet high and six feet wide. They came, these restrained, reserved, exquisite paintings, as visions, for which she would wait sometimes for weeks on end, rocking in her chair, steadying herself for a glimpse of the minute image that she would paint next. 'I paint with my back to the world,' she declared, and what she wanted to catch in her rigorous nets was not material existence, the Earth and its myriad forms, but rather the abstract glories of being: joy, beauty, innocence; happiness itself."
Sultan observes: "Looking at the long black line on the left wall, I see that it has some weight and presence, but it's not quite a sculpture. It is, rather, a long narrow, irregular painting, pointed on both ends so as to push into the space around it, animating the wall. The surface isn't polished and smooth, but bumpy and somewhat misshapen. I find this imperfection very touching, and the emotion is heightened for me by the ordinariness of this object placed on the wall: it is a line, and a hand-formed object, inviting metaphor... Palermo called his hybrid works of painting in three dimensions 'objects'. They are painting amplified."
Sultan writes: "Bannard's color is unique and surprising. In the exhibition ... there are pinks and warm reds and cool greens, and all colors confound expectations with their pleasurable seriousness. After all...pink? When I think of a great painter using pink, Philip Guston comes to mind; in his works pink becomes a subversive color. Bannard's pink isn't brash and saturated, but subtle; it looks like a mixed hue. The circle sits solidly in its field, perfectly balanced, slightly above the midpoint of a rectangle slightly taller than square. The pink becomes transcendent."
Considering works by Gerhard Richter, Richard Serra, Dan Colen, Botticelli and others, Martin Mugar examines the differences between materiality and transcendence in painting.
Mugar writes that works such as Richter's abstract paintings "risk and do at times descend into pure materiality. This embrace of the material results in what I would call art that is 'time poor.' ... It appears that Richter wants to stop time to impress one event on the viewer to such a degree that it eliminates any consideration of what came before or after... Gone is the role of the imagination, which might evoke memory, or the role of symbols that could point to an inner structure of consciousness that shapes the present." On the other hand, Mugar continues, in paintings such as Botticelli's Birth of Venus "the goal was to get beyond [to] (transcend)... This transcendence was not achieved through an act of will but by knowing the right prayers or alchemical formulas or in the case of art to use the right proportions, colors and geometrical shapes."
Patkin writes: "The No Title Required series is one of Ryman’s largest multi panel works, continuing his investigations into the relationship between non-identical panels, and presenting a further investigation into the relationship between panels. Subtly shifting layers of high-gloss enamel white along the picture plane are framed by blue paint, that extends out and around the support. Creating bizarre conflations of perception as the viewer moves along the work, Ryman’s pieces are subtle inquiries into ideas of continuation and space, creating tacit links between works that are almost completely devoid of any mark."
David Rhodes reviews the exhibition Jo Baer at Museum Ludwig, Cologne, on view through August 25, 2013.
Rhodes writes: "This summer’s exhibition at the Museum Ludwig was originally conceived as a presentation of Baer’s minimalist works and was later expanded to cover the artist’s entire output, with an emphasis on early drawings. As a result, links and ruptures, continuities and turns in her creative path can now be traced and appreciated fully, as can the beauty and clarity of each individual work. Baer’s endeavor has always been concerned with painting––and not with fashions and movements––which has led to some historical misunderstanding of her work, righted here."
Zurier comments: "Even when I put shapes or lines in a monochrome field, I am thinking of form in the largest sense -- as how something is made. Form, for me, means dealing with the total construction of a painting, not geometry or making a picture of something. I'm very interested in how compositional formats and motifs, and even incidents in a painting can trigger perceptual responses and associations. Even a horizontal line can be read as a landscape, but it's not my intention... I often make my own paints and grounds and I'm always discovering new things. My interest in materials involves looking for the right color and how the surface affects the way light is reflected or absorbed. I use various types of raw cotton and linen canvas and pay close attention to the different colors and textures of the weave. I also sometimes use pre-primed linen. I will also grind my own oil colors and I make tempera paint by mixing pigments into animal glues. I do a lot of research and make tests. It's part craft, part chemistry, and part like cooking. But as a rule, I try to keep the materials in a painting simple."
Edited by artist Brett Baker, Painters' Table highlights writing from the painting blogosphere as it is published and serves as a platform for exploring blogs that focus primarily on the subject of painting.